Demi Lovato’s Story (Part 2)

Demi Lovato just released her new album Tell Me You Love Me—and once again she uses her platform to educate her fans and the general public about mental illness. In songs like “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” and “Sorry Not Sorry,” she liberates herself from a past damaged by addiction and bullying.

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The 25-year-old former child actress on Barney & Friends spoke with NPR’s Ailsa Chang on All Things Considered Friday about the new album, her R&B influences, and encouraging others to open up about their mental health struggles (transcript and audio clip via NPR):

Listen to interview by clicking above

Ailsa Chang: You grew up in a family that was used to being on stage. Was there ever any question about what you would end up doing with your life?

Demi Lovato: I don’t think there was any question that I would end up as a musician or an actress. The first time I stepped on stage was in kindergarten—it was at my school’s talent show. I fell in love with being on stage and with singing at a very young age. I loved the emotion that I could pour out on stage; I mean, I wasn’t really pouring out emotion when I was 4! But when I started performing, I loved using my body to express the words in the songs that I was singing.

Ailsa Chang: But the constant spotlight wasn’t always kind to you. You’ve talked about being bullied about your weight at an early age. You struggled with eating disorders, even suicidal thoughts—and eventually, you turned to drugs.

Demi Lovato: Yeah, I’ve dealt with a lot, and I struggled a lot. But I’m in a really great place today. I’ve opened up and shared my story many times, and I opened up about the things that I coped with. It was a really rough time. But I feel like I have a really good handle on my life. I’m five and a half years sober now, and I’m in recovery for my eating disorder as well.

Ailsa Chang: I want to talk about a song on your album, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore.” In the verse, you sing: “I see the future without you / the hell was I doing in the past? / Now that I’ve learned all about you / A love just like ours wouldn’t last” — Who is that you’re letting go of?

Demi Lovato: I actually was singing this song about my alcohol and drug addiction. When you first hear it you think, “Wow, that’s pretty harsh for an ex-boyfriend!” But for me, it was about my old self and—

Ailsa Chang: You were breaking up with your old self.

Demi Lovato: Yeah, I was breaking up with my old self. Definitely.

Ailsa Chang: What was the rock bottom for you?

Demi Lovato: Rock bottom hit me in a moment when I was drinking vodka out of a Sprite bottle at nine in the morning on my way to the airport. I actually threw up in the back of the car service, and I had a moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, this is no longer glamorous. This is no longer a young person having fun with drinking and alcohol and experimentation. This is actually pathetic and sad.” And I felt like there needed to be a change in my life, because I had gotten to a place where I was no longer proud of myself and the person I had become.

Ailsa Chang: When you were in rehab, you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you talk very candidly about your mental illness. You also advocate for others to be open about their mental illnesses. Why is it important to you to talk about mental health in such a public way?

Demi Lovato: There are many, many mental illnesses that people struggle with on a day-to-day basis, and nobody feels comfortable enough to talk about it and to get the help that they need. We could prevent … so many lives [being] destroyed by mental illness if we just talk about it and we take the stigma away from it.

Ailsa Chang: Do you get tired of talking about your mental illness? Do you worry that it becomes a story that you’re known for — that it’s this narrative that drives your new music and it’s this thing that you have to keep talking about in interviews?

Demi Lovato: Well, fortunately my new music isn’t all about my struggles. It has a lot to do with my journey and my life and where I’m at today as a single 25-year-old woman who is living on her own for the first time [and] who has gone through a breakup that was really impactful, who is dating; you know, a bunch of stuff that you can relate to. There are times when I’m doing interviews and I feel like I sound repetitive. It’s not that I feel obligated or pressured to talk about it or that I get tired about talking about it; I just fear that sometimes people get tired of hearing my story.

Ailsa Chang: You know, your commitment to being really open and honest about yourself, it’s a commitment that is all over another song on your new album, “Sorry Not Sorry.” It sounds like you’re totally done with apologizing. What does that feel like?

Demi Lovato: It feels liberating. And the song actually was written — for me, again, it wasn’t written for an ex-boyfriend or anything like that. I was thinking about the bullies that bullied me in school, and how well I’m doing in my life today, and how I don’t give a flying f*** about it. I’ve spent so many years apologizing for my behavior and for the person that I used to be, so now I no longer am apologizing for who I was.

Ailsa Chang: Can you tell me how you got there? I know that’s a huge question, but you are 25; I know you have gone through so much in life. I’m 41 and I wish I could say, “Yeah, I’m done apologizing for myself. I’m done explaining myself and looking for justification.”

Demi Lovato: I think I’ve lived a lot of life. What people typically go through at an older age—I accelerated my life at a younger age with the struggles that I’ve had. And, I feel like I’ve had incredible people around me who have helped me get here; I can’t take all the credit myself. It’s a daily thing where I think about it, you know—some days are easier than others. But staying sober and staying in recovery is extremely important and I have people around me that hold me accountable for it. So it’s easy and sometimes difficult; but for the most part, I’ve just lived a lot of life.

Ailsa Chang: There are parts of this album that come from a pretty vulnerable place, but this is also a really, really fun album. It’s playful, it’s sexy. You talk about being single and dating. There’s one song called “Sexy Dirty Love”—who are you writing this song for?

Demi Lovato: I was writing this song for somebody that I was really interested in—somebody that I had been talking to, that I had a crush on. And, you know, when you go into the studio, you feel very inspired by the things that are happening in your daily life and this was where I was at. I was feeling confident, feeling sexy and I wanted to write a song about it.

Ailsa Chang: Your new album also has this really strong R&B feel to it. Is that something new you brought in through your vocals?

Demi Lovato: It’s something I wanted to explore when I started making this album because recently [during] the Grammys performance, I was able to showcase my vocals more than my pop music was doing. People…had known my songs, but they didn’t know I could sing the way that I can. I knew with this album it was a goal of mine to show the world the voice that I have. And I wanted to go more soulful with it, because that’s the type of music that I have fun singing.

Read the blog post “Demi Lovato’s Story” from 2016 here.

Taylor Swift’s Story

Music star Taylor Swift is victorious in her effort to hold a prominent Denver radio personality accountable for sexually assaulting her during a publicity event prior to a concert at the Pepsi Center in 2013.

After a jury ruled in her favor on Monday, Swift described her effort as a fight for “anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault.” Acknowledging that not every victim can afford the “enormous cost” of taking a case to court, she announced that she would donate funds to multiple organizations that provide legal assistance to sexual assault victims. “My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard,” Swift said.

Swift attorney Douglas Baldridge said the singer is “taking a stand for all women—she’s trying to tell people out there that you can say no when someone grabs you, no matter who they are. I think it’s a new day, because someone with the guts and the courage to stand up with absolutely no upside in doing so—that being Taylor Swift—has told everyone, ‘This is it, the line’s drawn.’ It means ‘no means no,’ and it tells every woman that they will determine what is tolerable to their body.”

The Denver Post quoted Abbey Shaw, a 16-year-old fan who was on hand for the verdict, saying: “She is putting out a message for women like us: Stick up for yourselves.”

The case began when KYGO radio host David Mueller groped Swift, who was 23 at the time, under her skirt during a backstage meet-and-greet photo session. At the trial, she described the incident: “He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him. It was a definite grab. A very long grab.”

Swift chose not to report the incident to police, but her manager informed station executives about the incident. Mueller sued Swift’s team for $3 million for making false allegations and getting him fired. Swift countersued for $1 in symbolic damages to hold Mueller accountable and serve as an example to other women. The jury in the civil case brought in U.S. District Court was apparently swayed by the testimony of eight witnesses supporting Swift’s allegations as well as by a photograph depicting the incident. In civil cases, jurors must reach a verdict based on a preponderance of evidence not proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” as in criminal trials.

Swift wept during the trial, and during her testimony described the shock of having been assaulted: “A light switched off in my personality.” She said she “just looked at the floor. I couldn’t look at either of them [Mueller or his girlfriend], and I just said in monotone, ‘Thanks for coming.’”

Attorney Baldridge said the $1 awarded to Swift represented something of immeasurable value because typically “victims are prone to blink rather than relive the shame and humiliation of what took place. It takes people like Taylor, wonderful people like Taylor, who we all know, to stand up and draw these lines.”

Emma Stone’s Story

Emma Stone, who won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in La La Land, has kicked off the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf video series for Mental Health Awareness Month. The 28-year-old Stone discusses her struggles with anxiety and panic disorder.

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Watch the video, and read the transcript:

Hi I’m Emma.

What I would tell kids that are going through anxiety, which I have and can relate to, is that you’re so normal it’s crazy. So many people—I mean, to say that “you’re so normal, it’s crazy” is a pretty funny thing to say—but, it is so normal.

Everyone experiences a version of anxiety or worry in their lives. And maybe we go through it in a different or more intense way for longer periods of time. But there’s nothing wrong with you.

To be a sensitive person, that cares a lot, that takes things in in a deep way, is actually part of what makes you amazing. And is one of the greatest gifts of life. You think a lot, and you feel a lot, and you feel deeply. And it’s the best. The trade off—I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even when there are really hard times. There are so many tools you can use to help yourself in those times.

It does gets better and easier as life goes on, and you start to get to know yourself more and what will trigger certain instances of anxiety and where you feel comfortable and safe.

So, I would just say, don’t ever feel like you are a weirdo for it. We are all weirdos!

#MyYoungerSelf is a series of honest stories from public figures about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder—what they would tell their younger selves about mental health. Click here to keep track of all the videos in the series throughout Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.

#MyYoungerSelf is part of the institute’s annual public education campaign, Speak Up for Kids, which promotes awareness of children’s mental health issues and providing needed information to families, educators, the media, and policymakers. Speak Up for Kids aims to counter the stigma for the one in five children struggling with mental health or learning disorders.

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Its teams work “to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain, and empower parents, professionals, and policymakers to support children when and where they need it most.”

Click here to read Refinery 29’s story about the Emma Stone video

Click here to read Vogue’s article on Emma Stone.

 

Prince Harry’s Story

“Once you start talking about it, you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club.” So says Prince Harry, 32, who has opened up in a British newspaper podcast interview about his mental health struggles and how he is dealing with them.

Harry spent 10 years in the British Armed Forces, including two operational tours in Afghanistan where he commanded Apache helicopters, and achieved the rank of captain. None of his military training and experiences, however, prepared him for the severe emotional challenges he faced due to the tragic death of his mother Princess Diana in 1997 when he was just 12 years of age.

In an interview with Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Harry revealed that he sought professional counseling after two years of “total chaos” in his late twenties. He described how he only began to address his grief at age 28 after feeling “on the verge of punching someone” and experiencing anxiety during royal engagements. He says he is now in a “good place.” He credits his elder brother, Prince William, for being a “huge support.”

Excerpts from the interview with Bryony Gordan’s “Mad World” podcast this week:

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well.

“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.

“The experience I have had is that once you start talking about it, you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club.

“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?

“[I thought] it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back.

“So from an emotional side, I was like ‘right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.’

“So I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great,’ or ‘life is fine’ and that was exactly it.

“And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the 
forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.

“It’s all about timing. And for me personally, my brother, you know, bless him, he was a huge support to me. He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to [someone] about stuff, it’s OK.

“The timing wasn’t right. You need to feel it in yourself, you need to find the right person to talk to as well.

“I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”

British mental health experts praised Harry for speaking up so openly about seeking professional help for his mental health struggles. Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, went so far as to say that the prince had achieved more in communicating mental health issues in the 25-minute podcast than Wessely had in a 25-year career.

Since retiring from the armed forces in 2015, Harry devotes much of his time to charity work. He is involved with Heads Together, which brings together The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in partnership with charities tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing help for people with mental health challenges. He also focuses on the welfare of servicemen and women, championing developmental opportunities for hard to reach children, and African conservation. In 2014, Harry created the Invictus Games, an international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.

Amy Dickinson’s Story

Love, loss, and coming home: Our own Amy Dickinson, the Freeville girl who went on to succeed advice-dishing queen Ann Landers as the “Ask Amy” syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, is on a book tour with her latest memoir, Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: Love, Loss, and Coming Home.

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Dickinson famously grew up on a Tompkins County dairy farm and traveled the world living in Washington, New York, Chicago, and London before returning home and marrying a local guy she knew from childhood. Some of this adventure was chronicled in The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Story of Surprising Second Chances, a 2009 memoir about being a single mom. “Ask Amy” is a daily advice column carried by 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million people.

NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed Dickinson from Ithaca for  Weekend Edition on March 11 (transcript and audio clip via NPR):

Listen to the interview by clicking above

SCOTT SIMON: So what’s a sophisticated urbanite like you doing in Freeville, New York?

AMY DICKINSON: Oh, not much, you know. I mean, just today I was at the Queen Diner with my aunts because that’s what we do once a week. We meet at the diner. You know, I live in my hometown. It’s—I’m right back where I started surrounded by people I went to high school with. And I don’t know if I could have done this at another phase in my life, but it just feels right.

SCOTT SIMON: It’s interesting reading this book. You learned a lot from the example of both of your parents, but they were substantially different lessons.

AMY DICKINSON: Right. I was very fortunate to have been raised by my mother, Jane, who was a really—just a great parent. She was fun. She was lively, and she really seemed to enjoy being a mother. My father, on the other hand, old Buck, was like a world-class abandoner. He left us. He left subsequent families. He left women. He left people in his wake. And he just—you know, I think of him now as, like, an old restless cowboy.

SCOTT SIMON: That’s being very kind.

AMY DICKINSON: It is being kind, actually.

SCOTT SIMON: With the advantage of a certain amount of hindsight now, did that make love more difficult for you?

AMY DICKINSON: Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s like he was this linchpin I measured all other men against, and I was often overcorrecting, may I say. So, yeah, I veered back and forth. My first husband very, very, very unlike—as unlike my father as I could find, but that also meant that he and I didn’t have a lot in common.

SCOTT SIMON: So you get back home where you started in Freeville, and you meet all over again a guy named Bruno.

AMY DICKINSON: Yeah. You know, I’ve known him most of my life. I think we met when I was 12. Bruno has never lived any more than five miles away from where he was born. And I came home. He is a very well-known local builder, and I came home, and I wanted to renovate my little house. And everybody said, “Oh, you should call Bruno, call Bruno.” And I finally called Bruno, and he came to my house and he opened the door – it was fall. And, Scott, it was just—you know that scene in “The Quiet Man” when John Wayne opens the door to Maureen O’Hara’s little cottage? And he…

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, hello, Mary Kate.

AMY DICKINSON: Mary Kate Danaher.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah.

AMY DICKINSON: He filled the door frame and these leaves were kicked up behind him. And it was this incredibly dramatic moment in my life when Bruno blew in, you know, in my door. Yeah, and we fell—we just fell in love immediately.

SCOTT SIMON: In the course of this book, your mother declines and then dies. And that’s very moving the way you trace that in the book. You don’t like this term that we’ve heard so much over the past generation—closure.

AMY DICKINSON: Yeah, really—I mean, do you have it?

SCOTT SIMON: No, no, no, I know exactly what you mean. You don’t close it. You go on.

AMY DICKINSON: Right. If you love someone fiercely, you’re not going to close the book on that. And honestly, I felt that the whole closure concept was really a—you know, just thinking that I might get closure I think delayed my healing from this loss. My mother was frail. She suffered. I was with her. I helped to take care of her. No one could have been more prepared for someone’s death than I was. And I just had no idea that the loss would have such magnitude for me. It was very, very tough.

SCOTT SIMON: You know what I’ve concluded, Amy? And I hope our children don’t hear this. You don’t really grow up until you lose your parents.

AMY DICKINSON: It certainly puts you in a whole other life phase. It’s incredibly profound, and the process—and I know you were with your mother and I was with my mother. And to me, it felt—it really did feel analogous to the birth process, this really potent, very powerful life process. And I was glad that I was there.

SCOTT SIMON: I finished the book and then turned back to the dedication: “This book is dedicated a memory of my mother, Jane Genung Dickinson, who taught me that life is a memory.” Not a cabaret?

AMY DICKINSON: Not quite.

SCOTT SIMON: Why…

AMY DICKINSON: Oh, but I wish, you know?

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, but why a memory?

AMY DICKINSON: Well, she told me once that she wanted that on her tombstone. My mother had a very dreamy, introspective quality, and I think she always lived in her head to a certain extent. And I loved that about her. We were very different in that regard. But I always really treasured that about her, the idea that there was a lot going on that she wasn’t necessarily revealing. I liked it.

SCOTT SIMON: Do other people’s problems ever—do you carry them home?

AMY DICKINSON: I do. You know, when I run a letter in my column, for instance, about someone who has been sexually assaulted and is suffering or has been abused, say, by a parent, I will then hear from dozens, sometimes over 100, other people who have had a similar experience. And the magnitude of that will really, really weigh me down sometimes. And yet, that’s exactly what this column is all about. It’s just about our commonality. You know, I feel very, very connected to the people who write to me. And yeah, I have to work hard sometimes not to take on the weight of some of this stuff.

hd1-Amy_Dickenson-2014-cAmy Dickinson (Tribune Content Agency)